It gives me no pleasure to say this but Barack Obama’s presidency of the United States of America is likely to be a disaster. Not, I must hasten to add, so much for the citizens of his own country. But certainly for us in the rest of the world.
The bad habits acquired by the world’s most heavily armed state over the last half century have become so ingrained that the mere election of a man of mixed race for the first time - important as that may be for the USA - is not of itself going to change that situation for the better.
At the same time the assumptions made by the US people have become so fixed that they will not easily be shaken. Yet here I must confess that I really do believe in miracles. Perhaps that is because I live in a house with a garden where things grow and where seldom a week goes by without some horticultural miracle coming up and, so to speak, biting me on the bottom. I therefore hang on to the thought that a miracle could come about which would change the politics of the US.
At the same time I am not confident or even hopeful of such a development: I recall a saying of a wise man - whose name I have forgotten - who confessed his faith in miracles but added that he had never heard of a miracle which had cured stupidity.
The inclusion into the Obama team of so many figures from the past cannot but betoken a continuation of the policies of the past, some of which, even in the some Bushite quarters, were seen to be stupid.
Hillary Clinton, for instance, was a big presence in her husband’s government which distinguished itself for the depth of its bias against the cause of the Palestinians and their land.
Her presence at secretary of state promises no change at all in US attitudes to Israel: indeed Obama has already promised that much to the pro-Israel lobby in the US.
I have caught no word of criticism of, for instance, the present barbarous exercise in illegal collective punishment being meted out to the children, women and men of the world’s biggest prison camp, the Gaza Strip.
Obama seems to have forgotten – if indeed he ever knew - that the Palestinians must eventually be settled back in the land which was taken from them decades ago.
The good news now is that Obama will go the Middle East soon to deliver a speech: the bad news is that he is likely to do it in Cairo, seat of the Western-subsidised dictator and torturer Hosni Mubarak.
His maintenance in office of George Bush’s secretary for defence Robert Gates indicates no break with the crowd who lobbied for the illegal invasion of Iraq in the first place.
The president-elect is on record, too, as favouring the dispatch of more US troops to Afghanistan to achieve “victory” there.
Sadly no one in Washington has ever coherently described how that the impending defeat of the Western occupiers of Aghanistan will be avoided. No one knows how “victory” will manifest itself when – or, better, if – it arrives. All the above indicates that an Obama government will continue to be as deeply hostile to the Arab world and the Muslim faith as that crusader from out of the West, Bush, ever was.
Obama will be continuing Bush’s vision of the future of the Middle East which was launched amid what Noam Chomsky five years ago called “a display of hatred and contempt for democracy for which no precedent comes to mind.”
It is no wonder that Obama’s choice of officials is, according to the New York Times, being praised by Karl Rove, said to be the architect of Bush II’s electoral victories, and by Rush Limbaugh, a dyspeptic broadcaster from the US far right.
Despite a crushing government debt of US$11,000,000,000,000 – eleven trillion dollars - there is no sign an Obama government will give up the long-established but expensive military dream of “full spectrum dominance”.
This is the ability to destroy, and the declared intention of destroying, any challenge to Washington’s strategic pre-eminence, on land, on and under the sea, in the air and in space.
Nor is there any sign that Obama will junk the Bush government’s tendency to lecture the world on what it must do – “You effete Old Europeans, forget that the Turks shamelessly discriminate against Christians and allow them into your European Union forthwith”; “You wicked Somali Moslems, surrender to occupation by troops from your Christian neighbour Ethiopia. Washington has arranged and paid for it for your own good”; “You uppity Bolivians, give up chewing coca leaves as you have done for millennia, we don’t like it”; “You half-starved Latin Americans, buy our subsidised food exports though they bankrupt your own farmers”; “You Chagossians, realise that your land is our land now and that we need your island of Diego Garcia as a base to bomb Afghans and Pakistanis and perhaps the Iranians, too”; “You, Chávez, elected as you are, must not try to stay in office. The only people who have been allowed to do that are OUR friends, like the sheikhs of the Gulf, Augusto Pinochet and the Kings of Saudi Arabia”.
The trouble for the US is that, with its economy in intensive care and its foreign strategies widely rejected, foreigners are unlikely to heed demands like the ones above if Obama tries to continue outdated policies which the rest of the world dislikes.
Millions and millions of Muslims certainly won’t. With ever better international communications large numbers of people are naturally going to challenge the way Washington wants to rule the globe.
The Russians and the financially savvy Chinese and the increasingly self-confident Latin Americans are already challenging it.
The era of world hegemony by the US is passing and Barack would do well to acknowledge that fact.
But I don’t expect he will. And that way lies trouble.